February 21, 2015

Too many ideas, not enough time

I might have mentioned in previous blog posts that I keep a notebook of story ideas. Whenever I come up with an idea that I think would make a great story, I jot it down in the notebook. It's usually just a couple of sentences to a paragraph. I have so many ideas now that I could easily spend the next decade writing them! Yet new ideas come up every week.

What's a writer to do when there are so many shiny, new ideas beckoning? Especially when motivation for the current project that I'm working on has waned, and any distraction is welcome? Here's what I do, with varying degrees of success.

  1. Finish the current project: As tempting as it is to take a break from the manuscript I'm working on to start a new story that seems better at the time, I force myself to finish the current story or at least set a deadline when it has to be done. I use the prospect of working on the new idea as an incentive for me to finish the current one. The other reason why it's important for me to stay the course is that a story doesn't count for anything unless it's done. An author could have half-written manuscripts for ten stories that are great, but until they're done and published, readers won't know about them.
  2. Set aside the new idea for it to age: Sometimes a story idea gets better with time, and sometimes it spoils if left alone. I can't count the number of times when I thought an idea was The Next Great Thing (TM) when I first had it, but when I revisited it months (or years) later, it sounded lame. The opposite can happen too. I've had ideas that I thought were just OK, but upon later inspection, I discovered that it held much more potential than I previously imagined.
  3. Incorporate an idea into the current story: It's happened before where I was flipping through my notebook of ideas while working on a story, and an idea for another story sounded like it could make a good subplot for my current WIP or trigger a similar idea that I could incorporate.
Do you have more ideas than you know what to do with? How do you handle them?

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